Sunday, October 15, 2006

Time to Make Poverty History

Tuesday is White Band Day, and the Sunday Star Times is highlighting the fact with a series of articles on the Make Poverty History Campaign overseas and in New Zealand, and the challenge of poverty in the Pacific. It also has a strongly worded editorial calling for New Zealand to boost its aid levels and do more in the fight against global poverty:

It is time for New Zealand to help make poverty history. The MPH campaign scored spectacular international successes last year - successes that throw an ugly light on New Zealand's efforts. Our overseas aid spending, as Bob Geldof told the government in July, is disgraceful and pathetic, among the worst in the OECD. We have not pressed hard for debt relief for the most wretched countries. And our stance on trade issues has been brainlessly purist, an unbending free-market approach that damages the interests of the Third World. New Zealand needs to do much better

We should all know the statistics. New Zealand spends a mere 0.27% of GDP on foreign aid - the 18th lowest in the OECD and a truly pathetic amount. We've been steadily falling in the annual Commitment to Development Index since it was introduced (the only consolation is that other countries have been falling faster). Despite having a left-wing government with an internationalist outlook and large budget surpluses, aid spending has trickled along at the same level it was under National in the mid 90's when they were slashing spending to give tax cuts to the rich, and when it comes to solving the world's problems, it seems that we now prefer to contribute soldiers rather than doctors, and bullets rather than medicine. This is not a record any of us should be proud of, and we can do a lot better. The problem is convincing the government to act, to eschew its "grim day-to-day managerialism" in favour of the basic decency of ordinary New Zealanders - and that ultimately is what the Make Poverty History campaign is all about.

If you'd like to help, then the best thing you can contribute is your voice. Join Make Poverty History. Email or write to the Prime Minister. Sign the petition [PDF]. Or wear a white band to show your support. Show the government you care, and maybe they'll start caring too. Otherwise, people will be condemned to suffer by our silence.


Perhaps the best thing people can do is:
1. Donate some money to a reliable privately run charity, because the odds are that will actually deliver rather than lobby politicians.
2. THEN lobby politicians, particularly EU and US ones, to end protectionism in trade in primary produce.

or you could write to an MP and sit back and have done absolutely nothing in essence to change the life of anyone in a developing country.

Posted by Libertyscott : 10/16/2006 07:32:00 AM

i/s - this is pedantry but:
that should read 18th highest or 4th or 5th lowest (not sure which).

libertyscott - trade liberation will do nothing if developing countries have no/limited capacity to trade. this is where aid comes in.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/16/2006 04:49:00 PM